Ruse of Engagement

Tress has an offsite meeting at work this morning and planned to get into office early before that and today being my usual day-off gym for me, we decided to come in together early. I got in just after 7am and if I started work I’d probably be itching to leave the office soon after 4pm. So I decided to do some extracurricular work in the form of reading some material and before long my attention drifted towards some articles on The Sydney Institute website.

Soon I drifted onto the correspondence section and zeroed in on some exchanges between Gerard Henderson and Robert Manne. The latter is a chairman of the board for The Monthly and often contributes articles himself. In at least one article, he made some comments about Gerard Henderson who then griped about having no right of reply, with The Monthly having no letter to the editors section. The response was that there was a letter to the editor section exists in the online version of The Monthly but quite rightly, Henderson’s concern may have been I believe, that the print and online editions may have very different audiences and one who reads the print edition – especially a subscriber such as Henderson – would probably expect to be able to have a reply on the print edition.

A subscriber may only read the print edition and may never see responses to what has been written, if the subscriber does not read the online version. Cross medium readership must be a voluntary outcome, not compelled by any reason. Also, there’s always the chance that an online edition runs the risk of “tampering” later. In my (not quite Luddite) mind the print edition would have these readers’ feedbacks well, in print and therefore less subject to issues of veracity or integrity.

Robert Manne did give Henderson some back to be fair and quite a big swing too. He may have copped some beatings in many ways but more than anything else and as always, what I am heartened to see is the rigour of engagement. It’s like watching two footy players from opposing sides jumping, diving, running and jostling, intercepting and tackling to win and use the ball to kick a goal. In many ways the outcome is important only to appreciate the tussle which in itself gives life to an otherwise banal existence. It’s an engagement not to achieve one upmanship or as time fillers but as a corporeal fulfilment to an otherwise 2-dimensioal relationship. By engaging thoroughly to flesh out a contest a relationship takes on new dimensions, even new heights.

When I read earlier today of the carnage that still litters the lives of Jason and Mel I wonder yet again why there is such a lack of engagement to bottom out this debacle that has beset the leadership of LifeGate Church of Christ in Glen Waverley for so long. Why have the leaders there inflicted such damage on another erstwhile leader and thereafter extract themselves of any further engagement so that the injured leader is left to lick his own wounds? It would have beggared belief had this occurred in any other context. That it happened in a church, with the chief protagonist and top attack dog a full time paid senior pastor is incomprehensible. The rest in the pack were all leaders – members of the church board. All ganged up to inflict damage on another brother and fellow leader. How could this have been?

I have asked Jason to walk away – shake the dust off his sandals and head to another pasture. This callous group does not deserve anymore of his time. But relationships are hard to be extricated from. My 8 years in that cauldron took me nearly a year to shake off. My dear friend had 15 years there. It would take him longer for sure but this total lack of engagement from this couldn’t care less group is doing the worst possible thing for my friend. It didn’t start that way of course. Pastor Tham Fuan Yee had given them the impression he was eager to work with them, and had called them “God-sends” but alas, that engagement was a mirage which has turned out to be an absolute desert that parches. I once called Pastor Tham Fuan Yee a curse that kept on cursing. I am inclined to think that continues to be the case.